By Gail Anderson, Minnesota Council of Churches
On a wintry afternoon in the last week of February Mariam, age 30, arrived in the Twin Cities on a flight from Turkey. She and her family had taken refuge there after fleeing violence and anarchy in her home country of Somalia. She has had no permanent home for the last five years. She arrived with her five children, ages 4–13, with no connection to this community – no family, no friends, no resources.
However, she and her family were greeted at the airport by a group of people organized by the Minnesota Council of Churches to help them get rooted in their new community, their new home. Her group of sponsors will get her family set up in an apartment, they will drive her and her family to appointments, they will introduce her to her neighborhood and community, they will help the kids get set up in school, and most likely they will become some of her first friends in America.
Mariam and her family are the first of nearly 100 refugees with no connection to anyone in Minnesota (a “free case”) expected to be co-sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches in 2010.
Receiving sponsorship support from volunteers is not only invaluable for refugees; it is also an immensely rewarding ministry.
Individuals now have a unique opportunity to be part of a mixed Muslim-Christian sponsorship team through the Taking Root program at the Minnesota Council of Churches. Taking Root combines the Council’s years of experience in Muslim-Christian dialogue and in refugee resettlement to create mixed Muslim Christian sponsorship communities to help free-case refugees make the successful transition to self-sufficiency.
MCC is looking for individuals who are willing to work with members of other faith groups to volunteer their time for a four-month period to help with the tasks necessary to help a refugee move from new arrival to self-sufficient member of the community. Sponsorship groups will be organized by MCC and have the full support and direction of the staff at the Council. Members of the groups will learn about each other’s faith traditions at the same time they help to give a free-case refugee family a great start in Minnesota.
Taking Root draws on the MCC’s “Taking Heart” program of bringing people of different faith traditions together for food and conversation, and its congregational sponsorship program for refugees together. MCC will be forming 20 different sponsorship groups made up of Muslims and Christians in the next year. These groups will work with newly arrived refugees who have no connection to our community when they arrive.
The MCC is planning its first orientation meeting next Thursday, March 11 from 6:00 -8:30 p.m. at the Minnesota Church Center, 122 West Franklin Ave in Minneapolis. Like a Taking Heart gathering there will be food and conversation, but participants will also learn how you can be part of making the difference of a lifetime to a newly arriving refugee family. Everyone is welcome; please RSVP at the information below if intending to attend the March 11 meeting.
For more information or to register for a presentation, contact Gail Anderson at 612-230-3210 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website athttp://www.mnchurches.org/programs/christian-unity/TakingRoot.html
Gail Anderson, unity and relationships organizer with the Minnesota Council of Churches, organizes the interfaith project “Taking Heart,” which brings Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors together over good meals and good conversation. This column was adapted from Ms. Anderson’s recent letter inviting people to a March 11 event under a new activity, “Taking Root.”